This post is not about mindful cycling.
These are my musings on being mindful of the menstrual cycle.
Even if you don’t have a menstrual cycle to contend with, you probably know someone who does. So, this post may still offer new insights and encourage you to be more understanding about the physiological and psychological impact of menstruation, as it impacts how we show up for ourselves and one another.
Research on female athletes who menstruate stated pain and blood loss can cause tension, fatigue, impacts motivation, concentration, performance, cognition and emotions (Findlay et al., 2020). Increased ligament injuries in menstruating athletes are also more likely during the first half of the menstrual cycle (Hewett et al., 2007).
I certainly notice a change in my behaviour and emotions over the month. For example, I am generally a very patient person who doesn’t get riled easily. However, I am less tolerant of behaviours lacking common sense, or consideration for others, when I am due to bleed. Also, issues I failed to address at other times of my cycle can become magnified when my joyful menstruation is imminent.
If I haven’t gifted my body enough rest, molehills can become mountains, or to paraphrase Wayne Dyer, one can end up wasting precious time and energy “pole vaulting over mouse turds.”
What I have experienced is that cycle awareness encourages a deeper understanding of one’s naturally fluctuating energy levels; physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, sexually and spiritually. This ties in nicely with my previous blog just say yes to rest, because taking regular horizontal life pauses help sustain us.
This more compassionate relationship with oneself is contrary to those whose culturally conditioned experience of menstruation evokes shame, disgust, and heightens worry and fear of embarrassment from leaked blood stains on clothes. Even in this day and age, with advances in technology and menstrual products, blood leakage is still a worry (Quint, 2019).
To find out more about the STAINS™ project or for permission to use the logo, contact the lovely Chella Quint at www.periodpositive.com
Below is Chella’s enlightening and entertaining TEDx talk about advertising messages we have internalised and how to “reclaim the stain!”
Equipped with menstrual awareness, I can choose to go with the flow and be more compassionate towards myself and others, as well as organise my life accordingly. For example, whenever possible, I address complex or challenging situations well before my monthly bleed, which is just one small, visible part of my menstrual cycle.
With growing self-awareness gleaned from years of charting my menstrual cycle, I can no longer deny its influence on my life. I even look forward to each joyful menstruation, as my delicious monthly invitation to deeply rest and rejuvenate.
Yet living harmoniously with your inner cycles and honouring your body’s needs, while it is the most natural thing to do, can still be a courageous and radical act of self-care, even in 2022!
Whether or not one experiences the phenomenon of menstrual bleeding, we can all achieve greater vitality and wellbeing by listening to the body as it traverses various cycles. Research demonstrates being out of sync with any of our inner cycles (e.g., sleep cycles) creates health problems. So, everybody benefits from quality sleep and cycle hygiene to maintain health and wellbeing, regardless of one’s propensity to bleed.
Therefore, by learning to work with our cycles we can access more sustainable energy, creativity and productivity, instead of working against our natural rhythms. Menstrual awareness is, therefore, more like swimming with the currents, instead of perpetually struggling against the riptide.
So, instead of body shaming and perpetuating menstrual taboos, let’s celebrate this fabulous human flesh cage we inhabit (that’s got more bacterial cells than human cells – kinda gross but wonderful, as it demonstrates our interdependence on all levels). Let our bodies breathe and move us with love and compassion on our mortal journeys of discovery, on this wild and wondrous earth.
You can download your free Red School menstrual chart here, or design your own journal. You can start by acknowledging your feelings and emotions each day and notice emerging patterns over subsequent months.
When you listen and respond you come into greater relationship with your own body (e.g., knowing when it is the best time to do or to be).
Red School founders and lovely human beans, Alexandra and Sjane, invite you to deepen your relationship with yourself. They are hosting a free retreat from 11-25 January 2022, to share how 2022 could be an awesome year of creativity, vitality and authentic leadership. But as my timing wasn’t great, if you miss the retreat, you can check out their book at your own pace, called Wild Power.
What steps can you take today to be more in tune with your body and its cycles?
How can you be more #periodpositive?
Check out the period positive pledge! : )
If you’d love to dive deeper into menstruality consciousness and cycle charting, check out Chella’s latest books aimed at different age groups: Own Your Period (9-13) and Be Period Positive (18+), with honest, useful information and gorgeous illustrations to guide and empower from menarche to menopause.
Onwards and LOLwards xXx
Findlay, R.J., Macrae, E. H. R., Whyte, I. Y., et al (20202). How the menstrual cycle and menstruation affect sporting performance: experiences and perceptions of elite female rugby players, British Journal of Sports Medicine 54,1108-1113.
Hewett, T. E., Zazulak, B. T., & Myer, G. D. (2007). Effects of the Menstrual Cycle on Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Risk: A Systematic Review. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 35(4), 659–668. https://doi.org/10.1177/0363546506295699
Quint, C. (2019). From embodied shame to reclaiming the stain: Reflections on a career in menstrual activism. The Sociological Review, 67(4), 927–942. https://doi.org/10.1177/0038026119854275